At that time, I was living in Iran and had just published my first webpage. It was a very simple website showing a few calligraphies that I had made. My favorite themes were belly dancers, portraits and birds. Visiting archaeological treasures such as Shiraz or Isfahan enriched my inspiration.
I never thought about tattoo designs until I received this email from a person in the US asking me if I could help him out. He was probably one of the first visitors on my website.
He gave me a list of 5 words corresponding to deep values such as “respect” and he wanted the words to be combined into the shape of a cross.
I thought it was a very interesting subject and I started making a few sketches in order to figure out which composition would fit best. When you have constraints such as the limits of the shape, you really need to place the words with harmony. I also realized that it would be interesting to create regular patterns as three edges of the cross would have identical sizes and outlines. I used a technique which consist in turning the page at 90 degree each time I draw a group of letter and repeat the drawing the same way. For the tall part of the cross, the idea that came to my mind was to keep using curves as this provides the most organic features in Arabic calligraphy. The limits would appear naturally as I would stop the curve on the same lines.
My customer sent me a picture of the tattoo when it was done and it was a great surprise!
I initially designed the cross to fit on a forearm. It seems like he got really enthusiastic with the result and decided to get the tattoo on his back. He did not fill the letters and only tattooed the outline. I thought it was a good decision. It made the cross look lighter.
That is a great example of how calligraphy can help deliver messages through a tattoo. From far, you see a beautiful cross. It is the first message. The closer you get, the more you realize that it is not only a cross made with random patterns. The design contains a text. That is the second message, through the meaning of the words selected to make the design.